One of the highlights of the Sacred Three Days I spent with Christ Church Vienna was the Easter Vigil. This liturgy is among the most moving in the Church. It begins dramatically on Holy Saturday evening with the blessing of the new fire, and the lighting of the paschal candle. Thankfully, the rain in Vienna held off until the ceremony of the new fire was completed, and the Deacon, who has the most dangerous job in Holy Week, was able to light the paschal candle without setting himself on fire!
The Deacon then processed the paschal candle into the dark Church, symbolising the dark tomb where Christ lay dead. Then with blazing candles held by the assembly, he chanted the ancient Exultet, a magnificent hymn, which with lyric beauty announces the joy and mystery of Easter: "This is the night, when Christ broke the chains of death, and rose triumphant from the grave".
Readings and psalmody helped us meditate on the works of God for his people since the beginning of time, culminating with the glorious Easter Gospel.
In Christ Church, as across the whole Church, this is a night when new Christians are initiated into the faith through baptism, and many are confirmed and received, strengthened by the Holy Spirit for their risen life with Christ and together with the faithful received the Holy Communion at the first Eucharist of Easter.
|Catechumens anointed before their baptism|
|Confirmation candidates sign themselves with the Easter water to remind themselves of their baptism|
In a parish like Christ Church, the organist and choir contribute significantly to the liturgies of the Church, and particularly in the Sacred Triduum, they have the opportunity to sing, not only the great hymns from across the ages, but the psalms, litanies and motets which accompany the liturgical action.
Some of the liturgical details are not quite so ancient, but nevertheless add to the joy of the Easter feast, such as the blessing of the chocolate at the conclusion of the Easter Day mass!
The joy of the Easter celebrations at Christ Church was hard to stifle. It was a blessed time of wonder, hope and praise. Thank you Fr Patrick and your people at Christ Church for the celebrations!